# Deriving an equation vs memorizing a formula

• cdotter
In summary, the conversation discusses the difficulty of understanding and recreating physics derivations and equations. It is common for students to memorize equations rather than deriving them, but this does not mean they should memorize every equation. It is important to understand the principles behind the equations and apply them in specific problems.
cdotter
Hi, I'm having a bit of trouble in my second semester of physics. We're covering magnetism right now. I can understand a derivation put before me of, for example, the torque due a current passing through a wire loop. However, I could never recreate this or reach a similar conclusion on my own. I have to memorize equations in order to solve any physics problems.

I know it's a waste of time to re-derive everything on an exam but my point is that I couldn't re-derive if even if I wanted do. Somehow I can understand the derivation but I can't do it on my own.

Am I a deficient physics student because I can't do this? Or is it common among us and something that comes with intense practice and experience?

It's common to me. For example, the kinematic motion equations with constant acceleration: ..once you see, and understand, the calculus associated with the equations, you memorize them...no sense deriving them time and time again, and after awhile the equations are so imbedded in your brain so that you can recite them while sleeping. Same in engineering, I used to know how to derive the equation for Euler Buckling using differential calculus, which was important to know as to understand the principles behind the equation's solution...but now, although i know the formula by heart, I'd be hard pressed to derive it again.

It's good to hear that I'm not alone. Anyone else?

You may not hear from anyone else since helpers often ignore a problem that is already being responded to. But I want to point out that while you don't have to derive the equation every time, that does not imply you should memorize every equation. Just memorize the basic ones, but then they have to be applied in a given problem on a case by case basis.

I can understand your frustration with the difference between deriving an equation and memorizing a formula. In my experience, it is common for students to struggle with this concept in physics and other scientific fields. However, I do not believe that this makes you a deficient student. It is important to remember that physics is a complex and challenging subject, and it takes time and practice to fully understand and apply concepts.

Deriving an equation involves understanding the underlying principles and relationships between variables, which can be a difficult task. It requires critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which can take time to develop. On the other hand, memorizing formulas can be a helpful tool for solving problems quickly, but it does not necessarily reflect a deep understanding of the concepts.

I would encourage you to continue practicing and seeking help from your professor or peers when needed. It is important to not only memorize formulas but also understand the concepts behind them. With time and practice, you may find that you are able to derive equations on your own and reach similar conclusions.

Remember, being a scientist is not about being able to memorize formulas, but rather about understanding and applying scientific principles in a meaningful way. So keep working hard and don't be discouraged, you are on your way to becoming a successful physicist.

## What is the difference between deriving an equation and memorizing a formula?

Deriving an equation involves using mathematical principles and reasoning to come up with an equation, while memorizing a formula means simply memorizing an already existing equation without necessarily understanding its derivation.

## Why is it important to understand how to derive equations?

Understanding how to derive equations allows for a deeper understanding of the underlying principles and concepts in mathematics. It also enables one to apply the equation in different scenarios and make connections to other mathematical concepts.

## Which approach is more effective in problem-solving, deriving an equation or memorizing a formula?

Both approaches can be effective in problem-solving, but deriving an equation allows for a more comprehensive understanding and can be applied to a wider range of problems. Memorizing a formula may limit one's ability to adapt it to different scenarios.

## Can anyone learn how to derive equations?

Yes, anyone can learn how to derive equations with practice and understanding of mathematical principles. It may require more effort and time compared to memorizing formulas, but it can lead to a deeper understanding of mathematics.

## How can one improve their ability to derive equations?

Practicing and understanding mathematical concepts and principles is key to improving one's ability to derive equations. It is also helpful to break down complex equations into simpler ones and to make connections between different equations and concepts.

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